Joseph Mallord William Turner

Stoke Damerel Church and the Royal Military Hospital across Stonehouse Lake, near Plymouth


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 95 × 157 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXI 3

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, the east end of St Andrew’s Church, Stoke Damerel, is seen on the right across Stonehouse Lake, with the Royal Military Hospital of 17971 to its south. The site then lay in a mile or so of open land between Plymouth Dock (later Devonport), beyond it to the west, and Plymouth to the east, with Stonehouse immediately to the south.
In front of the church on the right are the mills built on Millbridge which at that time had been partly demolished in a dispute over toll charges;2 the tidal lake was subsequently filled in and is now playing fields, while the hospital, with its separate pavilions linked by the arcade running below its full length, is occupied by Devonport High School for Boys.3 Polruan Terrace now stands at Turner’s viewpoint south-east of the bridge, and trees and later housing largely obscure the scene. There is another sketch of the mills on folio 4 recto (D09221), and views of the hospital from the west on folios 96 recto and 99 recto (D09322, D09325). The church is also seen on folio 110 recto (D09336).
As with a few other drawings in this book (see the Introduction), the present subject can be related to one of the oil sketches Turner made from similar viewpoints in 1813, in this case the oil study (Tate D09213; Turner Bequest CXXX G) described by Finberg as ‘River, with distant town,4 by Butlin and Joll at Sam Smiles’s suggestion as ‘Distant View of Plymouth from the North’,5 and currently known as Plymouth from Stonehouse following Smiles’s revised opinion;6 it may be that it actually shows the view westwards away from Plymouth, from a little further east than the present pencil sketch, but showing the mills on the bridge (partly masked by trees) and the church in much the same juxtaposition towards the left, with the silhouetted blocks of the hospital and their reflections above and below the mills.
The subjects as far as folio 127 recto (D09358) are all identified or presumed sites within a few miles in and around Plymouth, suggesting a series of fairly short excursions.
See Nikolaus Pevsner, South Devon, The Buildings of England, Harmondsworth 1952, pp.230, 235.
Brian Moseley, ‘Millbridge’, Plymouth Data: The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History, accessed 30 March 2009,
Brian Moseley, ‘Royal Military Hospital, Devonport’, ibid., accessed 30 March 2009,; see also ‘A Brief History of the School’, Devonport High School for Boys, accessed 25 October 2010,
Finberg 1909, I, p.365.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.133 no.219, pl.220.
See Sam Smiles, ‘The Devonshire Oils Sketches of 1813’, Turner Studies, vol.9, no.1, Summer 1989, p.15 no.3.
See Warrell 1991, pp.39 (venues), 41 (the present work).

Matthew Imms
April 2014

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